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Safety During Unexpected Weather Events

June 12th, 2019

In recent weeks, as Howard County experienced two severe weather events during dismissal time, HCPSS quickly mobilized personnel and resources to make important decisions about the safety of its school community and facilities with the best information available. The safety of students and staff is the top priority, and HCPSS has protocols in place to ensure their safety during weather events.

With both recent weather events, school and system administrators worked with staff from Safety and Security, Transportation and Communications to help keep children safe and calm, and parents informed.

As part of HCPSS’ Shelter in Place protocols, schools announce the weather situation, doors and windows are shut, and all staff and students are accounted for. During storms, bus drivers have instructions to take directions from school administrators, and when necessary, cease discharging students and immediately seek appropriate shelter, which are sturdy buildings such as schools, fire stations and office buildings.

More than 12,000 of our nearly 58,000 students walk to school. If severe weather is approaching, schools are directed not to dismiss walkers from school until the weather subsides. However, in many cases, a quick moving weather system may occur as children are walking home. For walker families, parents are encouraged to walk the route with their children to identify locations where they may seek shelter if a sudden weather event happens.

When an unexpected weather emergency is announced, HCPSS works first to secure students safely and then update parents as soon as possible. School administrators and staff are often unable to answer phones and emails during this time. Families are asked not to call schools or the central office as it is important to keep phone lines free for emergency calls. As school staff focuses on the safety of students, HCPSS Communications staff sends out systemwide announcements through the school system homepage, HCPSS News email, text message, Twitter and Facebook, and when necessary, will send or post school-specific messages through each school’s communications channels.

After every incident, the school system reviews protocols to find areas for improvement and share best practices. More information on weather-related procedures and emergency preparedness is on the HCPSS website. Families can also ask questions by contacting the Office of Safety and Security at 410-313-6840, or the Office of Transportation at 410-313-6732. School administrators can also help answer questions.

The safety of Howard County children and staff will always be the first priority. Parents are encouraged to have conversations with their children to reinforce the importance of safety drills and following the directions of school staff.